Stay in your car, keep vents closed... How to drive through a veld fire

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 AVOID THE FIRE: If you are caught in a veld fire, these tips can be the difference between life and death. ~ Arrive Alive

Cape Town - As dry conditions prevail in parts of South Africa, water restrictions are enforced and temperatures rise so does the risk of veld fires.

Drivers who are caught in the smoke of a veld fire are at risk of a crash due to limited visibility. The best way to avoid becoming a statistic in this situation is to be prepared and learn how to react if you are caught in a fire.

Confrontation with a veld fire

The MD of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, provides some tips on how to drive through a veld fire.

  • Listen to traffic broadcasts and avoid areas which are affected by veld fires as much as possible.

  • Certain toll routes also broadcast veld fires on their social media channels.

  • If you are caught in a fire reduce your speed, as visibility will be severely reduced.

READ: You can spark a veld fire?! Why driving on your rims is incredibly dangerous

  • While it is recommended to always drive with your headlights on, check your headlights are on so that your visibility is increased and switch on your emergency lights.

  • If the smoke is extremely thick do not attempt to drive through it. You risk colliding with other vehicles doing the same or risk driving off the road into the fire. Rather safely turn around and find another route.

  • Do not exit your car. Your car is the safest place to be if you are caught in a fire as it provides the most protection from heat and smoke.

  • Unlike portrayals in the movies, the petrol tank is unlikely to explode from the heat of a veld fire.

  • Stay low in your car and keep the windows and vents closed while you wait for the fire to pass.

  • If, once the fire has passed, the smoke and heat in the car is too extreme get out and move to an area which is already burnt, ideally keeping your body covered.

  • Give emergency vehicles priority on the roads and listen to their instructions. They have the most experience and will get you safely out of a veld fire. 

  • If you need to stop, find a clearing or a section of the roadside which has low vegetation. Turn your ignition off and lights on.

If you would like to find out more about safe driving tips, download the MasterDrive app from iStore and/or Play Store, or give them a call on 086 110 0618.

Image: IStock

Respect for emergency teams

Arrive Alive notes that the police, traffic officials and fire fighters do their best to avert the dangers form veld fires and to protect the public and motorists from these dangers. It is important that motorists obey and pay close attention to these officials.

The following should be kept in mind:

  • Move over when you see flashing lights at the side of the road or the presence of emergency vehicles or fire engines!

  • Try to stay at least 200 metres from the emergency vehicle.

  • If an emergency exists ahead, it may be dangerous to the public to drive through the area.

  • People who drive into an emergency scene may collide with a fire engine, or worse, a firefighter. 

  • Slow down when approaching an emergency scene.

  • Be patient and keep in mind that fire and emergency personnel did not create the emergency, they did not cause the accident and they did not start the fire.

  • Detouring traffic may cause everything to slow down, but it is better getting through slowly instead of getting stuck.

For more guides and tips on veld fires, visit the Arrive Alive website.

EMERGENCY NUMBER: If you see a veld fire, dial 112 immediately! Image: Arrive Alive

Johan Jonck from Arrive Alive says: "We would advise motorists to report any such fires immediately - and to refrain from trying to combat these fires themselves - leave it to the experts. Both veld fires and the wind that moves it are unpredictable.

"The golden rule is, if you cannot see through the smoke do not proceed. On no account should motorists who find themselves in the middle of the road in dense smoke panic and attempt to stop or reverse, as this could result in an accident. Attempting to exit a vehicle under such circumstances could be fatal."